Hudson Valley’s ice hockey team fought for their final victory in NJCAA hockey history.
The top four teams in the NJCAA’s league, Erie, Dakota, Mohawk, and Hudson Valley, competed at SUNY Broome’s Ice Stadium for the final tournament on Feb. 24-26. Hudson Valley placed third overall in the the tournament.
“I told my team to go out onto the ice and have some fun,” said Hudson Valley Hockey Coach. Ken Lancto.
“I told them to respect the game, school and other team but to finish hard,” said Lancto.
According to Chris Breault, a Vikings forward, his team’s nerves got the best of them and the other teams were able to take advantage of that in the first two games.
“Over the past few days we have been at each others necks,” Breault said.
The Vikings began the hockey tournament with to 6-3 loss to Erie Community College on Friday.
Erie scored once in the first period, and made their next three goals in the second period. Kyle Constanty scored Hudson Valley their first goal. During the third period, Troy Bennett scored, quickly followed by another goal by Constanty.
Goalie Nate Muller blocked 41 shots on Friday’s game, and is ranked second in the nation with a .919 Save Percentage, and third in Goals-Against Average.
By the end of the game, Hudson Valley had over twice as many minutes in penalties as Erie. Hudson Valley ended with 63 minutes in penalties from 18 infractions. Erie left with 11 penalties and suffered 30 minutes with one less player on the ice.
“There was a lot of taunting going on so a lot of guys were taking selfish penalties and were just thinking of themselves and not their team or the school they represented,” said Bill Orr, assistant coach for Erie’s hockey team.
Orr said that player behavior isn’t always the fault of the coach. “You try to reign your players in, but sometimes the emotions get the best of everyone,” said Orr.
Hudson Valley scored one goal against Dakota College in the next game of the tournament on Saturday. Evan Perkins made an unassisted goal shortly into the second period. Dakota went on to finish with ten goals.
“They came out physical [and] they were trying to put pressure on us,” said Dakota player 23, Nial Mills. “It was a close game in the first period, but I felt like we were in better shape than them from all of our conditioning,” he said.
This was the Viking’s first time playing against Dakota. “Watching them in warm-up didn’t give us enough information on them,” said Breault.
The Vikings as incurred 23 infractions and were down a player for 73 minutes of their game against Dakota. During the time the Vikings were down a player, Dakota scored six goals.
Dakota lost 22 minutes for 11 infractions.
“Their mentality is what killed them – they took penalty after penalty,” said Zach Garrett, number 23 for Dakota.
“If they had kept the mentality they had in the first period, beating them might have been a challenge,” he said.
According to Andy Roppick, an official working the penalty box, poor conduct was displayed by all of the teams in the tournament.
“A lot of the time when a player disagrees with a referee they come to a penalty box and they are dropping the f-bomb left and right,” said Roppick.
Coach Lancto had no comment about the claims of misconduct.
Hudson Valley goalie Jeffrey Smith said that he thought the referees were too hard on their team.
“There was [a little unsportsmanlike behavior] on our end. Some of the players lost their cool and it ended up costing us,” he said.
Hudson Valley Athletic Director Justin Hoyt said that he was unaware of any misconduct.
“I’m not going to talk about the negative parts of this weekend, or the way they lost,” said Hoyt. “No one was ejected from the game,” he said.
The Viking’s hockey team ended their last season on a win with a victory over Mohawk Valley 8 to 4.
Sean Spohr made the game’s first goal two-minutes into the game. Hunter Craig, Tyler Demarco and Breault also scored in the first period.
While Mohawk Valley was down a player due to a penalty, Adam Hosmer made a score. Bennett, Constanty and Spohr scored in the third period before the game ended.
Hudson Valley had 6 infractions and lost 12 minutes of their game. Mohawk lost 20 minutes for 6 infractions.
This was the Viking’s last game as a hockey team.
“We really just enjoyed our last game together,” said Smith. “This game was more relaxed because there was less pressure on us to win this game,” he said.
“Unfortunately there is not enough interest in hockey,” said NJCAA chair Kevin Salsbury about the elimination of hockey teams.
According to Salsbury, five teams in the area still have a hockey team. “Hockey is an expensive sport and that is why a lot of schools are dropping it,” said Salsbury.
“To win our last game of program history is pretty special to me and the guys,” said Lancto.
Breault does not want to be a part of the last generation of hockey players at Hudson Valley.
“Hopefully they will get a club team eventually,” said Breault. “To be one of the last ones to wear the jersey for the next couple years feels good, if not a little sad,” he said.